DailyPost 2057

The vast and diverse geography and demography of the country is stitched with a regulatory apparatus in the variety of areas, which is creaking from both ends. A perfect or semi-perfect cutting-edge enforcement mechanism would be conspicuous by its absence in every part of this famed nation. People have been moving pillar to post, judiciary as well, but overall performance remains the same, at its very best, otherwise mostly it has deteriorated. The beauty is that all the guidelines are in place and the regulatory agencies have the wherewithal to implement it, but it does not happen. Even a novice can understand the issues therein, but where does the will to set right come from. It is not a technology that can be imported.

The infamous sordid saga of Bangalore potholed roads, can gain entry as one of the biggest governance case studies in the world. With best of the technology available in the Silicon Valley of India, and with government and judiciary breathing fire on the local self-body, the problem does not seem to reach a solution. Now the real fire story of this country. Yesterday, a fire accident in a four-story building in Delhi Mundka area, 27 people were killed and 12 injured. The fire started on the first floor, which housed the office of a CCTV camera and router manufacturing company. The owners of the company have been arrested and their father has lost his life in the fire. The owner of the building did not have safety clearance from the fire department.

Things cannot be more tragic, 27 dead, including the accused’s father, and the building does not have a fire clearance. The size and location of the building can you give a fair idea, whether the building could have been hidden and operated upon, without the knowledge of the regulatory authorities. The tragedy becomes even murkier, when the fireman who douse the fire, belong to the same established which happens to the regulatory agency. This is 2022 and the first major hue and cry happened in the year 1997, in the backdrop of the Uphaar Cinema fire. Fifty nine people were trapped inside and died of asphyxiation, while 103 were seriously injured in the resulting stampede. It led to a long and vexatious legal battle. What is the moral of the story?

That we don’t take any learnings even from the biggest of the tragedies. Yesterday’s accident proves the same. We have had the misfortune of witnessing fire in Covid ward and consequent loss of life. What have been the changes thought about, brought in and fully implemented in the last 25 years since the Uphaar tragedy? The immense technological enablement of the last 25 years, if it were properly put to use, could have completely transformed the situation. Very rarely a big building fire in this country has happened as a pure accident. Every time the regulatory and inspection agencies are in the dock. The builders, business and regulatory mechanisms are together in one ecosystem. Where are the builder’s unknown? We are all sitting on a tinderbox. Every single building worthy of fire risk should be audited immediately, and the report should be in the public domain. Why on the approved blueprint of the building, all mandatory layers are not laid, then cleared, physically and on the blueprint, with video substantiation having date and time stamp to support. Technology enabled transparency can bring accountability.

Sanjay Sahay

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